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Pro Portfolio: Shipping container house and photo studio near Joshua Tree

May 9, 2011 |  8:08 am

Every Monday we post a recently built, remodeled or redecorated home with commentary from the designer. This week:

Architect: Walter Scott Perry, Ecotechdesign (323) 650-2827. General contractor: Eric Engheben, Ecotechbuild, design-build subsidiary of Ecotechdesign. Landscape: Ecotechdesign.

Eco12 Architect's description: This container hybrid house prototype, also known as the Tim Palen Studio at Shadow Mountain, is a second- generation prefab design.   

The concept combines pre-engineered building and energy conservation features to maximize efficiency and cost savings, while offering architectural design flexibility and variation.

The project is composed of steel components, including six shipping containers, a Butler pre-engineered building, a 10,000-gallon water tank, a shade canopy with integrated steel framing system that provides strength and protection against earthquakes, fire and wind, as well as large window and door openings to maximize natural light and ventilation.

An adjustable steel frame and shade system reduces heat and glare on the building by 50%, and a solar breezeway, shown at right, allows for plug-in attachment of future solar electric and water heating panel arrays. The shaded breezeway also provides a protected outdoor room as an extension of the interior.

Movable modules use gray-water irrigation and are planted with native desert plants and sedums to absorb heat and dust.

By combining high-efficiency and mass-produced modular construction methods with innovative design in one of the harshest climate zones in North America, we have developed a low-cost, sustainable housing system that can be transported and quickly erected in most places. The typical housing project in San Bernardino County takes one to three months to go through entitlement and permitting; however, our project was approved and permitted in just one week.

For more details and photos, keep reading ...


A proprietary steel framing system reinforces and ties the container modules together to resist earthquake and wind forces. It allows for large openings in the container walls and forms a framework between the residence and photo studio.



Marble counters and white cabinets keep the space airy and light. The space feels open and connected to the outside.



The entrance serves as a reminder of the home's industrial construction.



Five shipping containers are stacked on two levels. The living area is on the first floor, and the bedroom suite is on the second. 



The stairwell also doubles as a potential display gallery for the photography studio.



Large areas of the steel walls were removed to open the interiors to sweeping desert views, natural daylight and ventilation.



Heading downstairs from the upstairs bedroom.



The 18-foot-high stairwell is sheathed in recycled, corrugated metal with a vertical slit window facing east to distribute morning light evenly across the interior walls.



A 160-square-foot green roof made of 4-by-4-foot native plant modules is placed on the second floor shade framing. The plants are a visual extension of the living desert across the white “cool roof.”



The breezeway provides a shaded outdoor room that connects the house to the studio.



The photo studio is constructed from a pre-engineered steel Butler building system. 



A dimmable solar-lighting system allows levels to be adjusted throughout the day.



A recycled 3,000-gallon tank collects rainwater off the metal roofs to irrigate the breezeway landscaping. A 10,000-gallon tank stores the home's potable water and emergency water in case of fire. Gray water can be used to irrigate desert vegetation and the green roof modules.


Architect Barbara Bestor's "floating bungalow"

Pacific Palisades indoor-outdoor

Jonathan Fong, crazy for color

-- Lisa Boone

Photo credits: Jack Parsons Photography

Pro Portfolio appears on this blog every Monday. Submit projects to home@latimes.com.

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